Anakbayan, the national democratic mass organization of the Filipino youth, strongly condemns the reduction of the General Education (GE) program in University of the Philippines (UP) as a manifestation of intensifying neoliberal attacks on education. Last March 20, 2017, UP Diliman followed the rest of the UP system in adopting “reforms” in the university’s GE program when its University Council approved the said measure in a special meeting.

These curricular reforms cannot be reduced to the privileging of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics over the humanities and social sciences. For more than any clash between specialization over general knowledge, the hard sciences over the arts, productivity over culture, these so-called GE “reforms” is only the latest saga in the mad dash to meet “international standards” imposed by neoliberal globalization.

As part of “reform packages” pushed by foreign multilateral institutions like the World Trade Organization (WTO), they are a component of the drive for “internationalization” that is in fact nothing more than the blatant sellout of Philippine education to foreign monopoly capital. Briefly said, the GE “reforms” only means the deepening restructuring of the university to further serve as assembly lines producing cheap and docile labor for export.

As in the academic calendar shift, the curricular changes in UP in the context of internationalization further paves the way for hastening the entry of foreign corporations seeking to profit from the country’s education sector through “partnerships” and “joint programs” with local universities and colleges. They provide a leeway against the constitutional prohibition on foreign ownership of universities in the country.

To keep up with the rush to raise university rankings and compete in the global market, internationalization translates into the subjection of faculty, academic employees, and skilled workers into intensified exploitation as liberalization pushes down wages and expands contractual labor schemes. Already, we are seeing this shadow hanging over the heads of junior faculty and instructors to be affected by the reduction of GE units.

The GE “reforms” cannot therefore be seen in isolation from the Duterte regime’s continuation of previous regime’s neoliberal programs in education, from the unrelenting cuts in state subsidies for the education sector, persistent deregulation resulting in tuition and other fee hikes, the colonial and burdensome K-12 program, and lately a bogus “free tuition” scheme which is nothing more than the scandalous nationwide implementation of UP’s socialized tuition scam.

The “reforms” force us to confront any illusion about the university. Insofar as what was then the American University of the Philippines was founded as a training ground for bureaucrats and technocrats who would man the colonial officialdom, they only reaffirm the university’s colonial and reactionary core since its establishment in 1908. Indeed, they further cement UP’s role as an apparatus churning graduates who will serve imperialists and local ruling classes.

This acquires more significance amidst the worsening state terrorism and fascist attacks by the Duterte regime against the Filipino people. For while the regime wages all-out war against the people, the minds of students are indoctrinated by colonial and fascist thinking. They are kept detached from the conditions of the toiling masses and deprived of the critical faculty and militancy that enable them to criticize social injustice, exploitation, and oppression.

Against the exacerbation of the colonial, commercialized, and fascist system of education represented by the GE reforms, Anakbayan calls on all iskolar ng bayan to expose and oppose the intensified neoliberal attacks on education, advance the struggle for a truly nationalist, scientific, and mass-oriented education and culture, serve the people and immerse with the masses of workers, farmers, national minorities, and other oppressed classes.

Only by perpetually renewing the tradition of militant activism and building a mass movement for social change linked with the basic masses — the real “university of the people” where we learn from and fight alongside the Filipino people for national liberation and genuine democracy — can we truly preserve the “heart and soul” of the university.

 

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